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Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/28/2006 03:26:00 PM

My Sportsman: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols had another typically monster year with his bat for St. Louis in '06, but his favorite statistic is World Series champion.
David E. Klutho/SI

By Albert Chen

The pain. That's what he'll remember as much as anything else when, years from now, he looks back on this exhilarating roller-coaster of a season.

He will, of course, remember standing on the grass at Busch Stadium after Game 5 of the World Series, his 5-year-old son, A.J., sitting on his shoulders, the faithful standing and cheering in the stands unwilling to let go of the moment. He'll remember the champagne dripping from his face in his team's rhapsodic clubhouse. He'll remember the parade along the streets of the Gateway City and the sense of pride he felt in bringing St. Louis its first World Series title in 24 years.

But Albert Pujols will also remember the pain. "This was the toughest, most difficult season I've ever in my career," he told me after the season. "That's what made winning the championship so sweet."

Why Pujols for Sportsman of the Year? When I look back on 2006, I'll remember Pujols, who was the best player and the heart of the team that won the most improbable of this year's championships. He was the sport's best -- and yes, most valuable -- player. In this gilded season in which he won his first World Series ring, his first Gold Glove and further cemented his status as the most feared hitter in the universe, Pujols faced more hardship and frustration than he had in any of his six major league seasons.

For much of the regular season and through the playoffs, he played with a vicious, oblique injury that would have crippled many others. He was also deeply shaken by the sudden death of a dear uncle, Antonio Joaquín dos Santos, a man who helped raised him in the Dominican Republic.

"It's not just his numbers," says catcher Yadier Molina, one of the young St. Louis players Pujols closely mentors. "What he meant to this team when we were down is unbelievable. He kept his head up through the tough times. He had a great [individual] season but he was also the guy who kept us together in the clubhouse."

Through the adversity, the 26-year-old had the finest season of his made-for-Cooperstown career. He reached career highs in home runs (49), RBI (137) and slugging percentage (.671) while setting a career low in strikeouts (50). He broke Willie Mays' single-season record with 20 game-winning RBIs. He became the youngest to reach 250 career home runs and the first to hit .300 or better with at least 30 home runs, 100 runs and 100 RBIs in each of his first six seasons.

In what was billed as a subpar postseason for the five-time All-Star, Pujols still led the Cardinals in on base percentage (.439), home runs (3), walks (13) and runs scored (11) and played exceptional defense at first base.

Pujols is no slouch in the community, either. He and his wife, Deidre, last year started the Pujols Family Foundation, dedicated to those with Down syndrome (stepdaughter Isabella has the condition) and orphans in the Dominican Republic. In September, the Cardinals held their annual Buddy Walk Day, which brings thousands of children with Down syndrome to a Cardinals game and for which Pujols is the spokesman. Against the Pirates that afternoon, Pujols homered in his first three at bats.

Just another magical moment in a charmed year.

posted by sidotcom | View comments |  

Comments:

Posted: 3:02 PM   by Simon Gere
He's awesome! But my heart tells me to go with Roger Federer on this one.

He could have won it in 2004 or 2005, but this year was even more insane.

Also his personality; wow! He might be the first Übermensch in human history.
Posted: 7:09 PM   by Anonymous
He's arrogant and conceited, refuses to ever give credit to the opposition, and is a jerk to autograph seekers and media alike.
Posted: 7:48 PM   by Anonymous
Sportsman of the Year should be a prime performer in a major sport (or highly visible like the Olympics or Tour De France/Lance). Pujols would be a great pick! Don't forget his 20 game winning HRS.
Posted: 7:51 PM   by Anonymous
I absolutely agree with Pujols for the Sportsman of the Year. I am a Cardinals fan and have cheered for Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Willie McGee, Ozzie, Bruce Sutter et al. Albert Pujols is a another in a long line of Cardinals greats. He should have been MVP of the NL this year. Not taking anything away from Howard, but Pujols OBP, Slugging % and only 50 strikeouts - you have got to be kidding me! On top of all of this, he is an exceptional Role model for my 14 year old who plays ball in Georgia. He is a wonderful person and a truly amazing athlete. Here's to the best player in the town that will love him forever! Go Cardinals!!
Posted: 7:57 PM   by Anonymous
There is not a better overall role model in the game of baseball today in terms of character and work ethic! Perhaps the best in any sport.
Posted: 9:02 PM   by Kalyan Pokala
For the comments made after the Glavine game against the Mets, I say no "Sportsman" would ever make those comments.

Federer is the epitome of class. He works hard, wins with dignity, and treats every opponent, linesman, and chair umpire, every fan, every person he meets with respect.

Pujols is arrogant, he does his part for charity, but to me, to be sportsman of the year, you have to show SPORTSMANSHIP on and off the field of play.

He has not shown that to me. You can't have Sportsman without the Sportsmanship.

Poor choice, Chen.
Posted: 9:37 PM   by mike b
his whining about the MVP vote tells me that maybe the "pujols is kind of a jerk" rumors i've heard might have some credibility. hopefully the 14-yo in Georgia doesn't take that as a good example.
Posted: 9:46 PM   by Anonymous
Pujols...Sportsmanlike? Don't make me laugh. This is the guy that said the man that scouted him AND convinced the Cardinals to draft him deserved to be fired (That's right folks, the man that signed Pujols works at Wal-Mart now). He trashed a future HOF pitcher (Tom Glavine for those scoring at home) after his team was completely dominated in a playoff game. He also said that Ryan Howard should'nt have won the MVP because he didn't lead his team to the playoffs. The Phillies had 2 more wins than St. Louis. He is just another in a LONG line of professional jerks...err athletes.
Posted: 10:49 PM   by Anonymous
Noone who complains about not winning the MVP when you win the world series should be sportsman of the year.
Posted: 11:03 PM   by Anonymous
Albert Pujols is not only the greatest baseball player of our current generation, he is one of the best people. He does so much for our community here in St. Louis, especially in his aid for children with Down syndrome. He is also a devout Christian who knows that his gifts are not his own, and gives glory to God and does not try to draw attention to himself. He will babble on and on about how wonderful his teammates are, while deflecting personal questions by stating that he always has room for improvement and is most proud of his work ethic (which is far and above most modern day players). I think that Albert Pujols should be the Sportsmen of the Year more so for the things he does of the field than what he has accomplished on it.
Posted: 11:20 PM   by Anonymous
"arrogant and conceited"? You must be a Tigers fan.
Posted: 11:22 PM   by Anonymous
How can you give Sportsman of the Year to someone who complains about not winning the MVP award, whether he deserved it or not. The voters decided Ryan Howard was more valuable, thats the end of it. Dont cry to the media saying you're more valuable or anyone else for that matter. You won the World Series, the ultimate TEAM accomplishment, take that as the ultimate prize. Im sick of conceited athletes who are more concerned with the hardware on the mantle then the team winning, even though they did that too. A 'Sportsman' is a person of class who wins with respect and respects the other athletes he battles every night, not a sore winner who complains about not winning a stupid award.
Posted: 9:38 AM   by Anonymous
Just a little perspective:

1)Many baseball people feel that you have to lead your team to the playoffs to win the MVP. Pujols has very good company there.
2)The comments about Glavine were from a competitor that was saying we didn't do enought to win that game.
3)What makes him tough & fierce when he plays, i.e. that competitive edge - doesn't always come across well to media.

He is a proud man and does a lot of charity work so I don't care if the media doesn't care for him.
Posted: 10:10 AM   by Matt Francis (UK)
Lets hope you at SI pick the Sportsman of the year (Roger Federer) not the American Sportsman of the Year. The way he has ruled his sport is Tiger-esq, if not better. Open your eyes America, there is an actual world out there!!
Posted: 10:28 AM   by Ryan
I thought you had to play a "sport" to be the sportsman of the year. Tennis has been a dead sport in America ever since Sampras retired. Pujols deserves every award everywhere, anytime. He is "El Hombre!" And the comments about Glavine after the game is just the competitor in him. Had they asked those questions a couple hours after the game or the next day I believe he would have a different response. I live in St. Louis and have been a Cards fan my entire life and have had the privilege of watching this man play baseball the right way everyday. Viva la Cardinals!
Posted: 11:59 AM   by Anonymous
The Sportsman of the year should go to someone that actually practices good sportsmanship.

Someone that devalues the competition and whines like a baby about not winning the MVP award does not know the meaning of sportsmanship.

No not a Tigers fan. Just because he's one of the best players in the game doesn't make him a good sport. They have awards like the MVP award for that...Oh, he didn't win that...

And would Roger Federer quit posting in these sportsman blogs, no one cares.
Posted: 1:24 PM   by B-RAD
Its true that Pujols should not have said that stuff about the MVP. However, how one could percieve that as whining like a baby is beyond me. The guy is a good ballplayer and does tons of charity work. You people are like sheep. Anything the press says you just fall in line and assume thats the exact way it went down and the exact context it was said in. I am not saying you have to like the guy, i would probably hate him if i wasnt a Cards fan, but you cant deny his talent and his heart. Dont worry about what he says, thats not hurting anybody. Worry about what he does on and off the field.
Posted: 5:21 PM   by Anonymous
No doubt that he is the best baseball player on the planet right now. Fierce competitor, does great charity work and has a legendary work ethic. None of this is debated. But this is not the best athlete award, its the best Sportsman award. You need to be a great athlete and a gentleman who shows class on and off the field.

Hey Cardinals fans, at least he's a great ballplayer.
Posted: 6:48 PM   by Anonymous
I am from the St. Louis area. First of all, I think he deserved the MVP and he was right in his logic, regardless of which team had more wins, you do what is necessary to get there. Secondly, I know he is a great competetor and made his comments about Glavine with the purpose of showing his team they should not fear him. However, you can't make those comments b/c people who don't know him that well interpret them exactly the way they have been. Sportsmanship is knowing exactly what to say and to whom, without ruffling feathers. He is a great player, but it pains me to say not Sportsman of the year.
Posted: 8:16 PM   by Anonymous
If everyone would read the article from the dominican republic papers, they would read that, even though Pujols thinks the MVP should go to a player on a playoff team, he says that he would trade all MVPs he would ever accumulate for a World Series ring. Don't let an out-of-context reference by the AP sour your perspective on a very respectible and giving man. His quotes:
"I was a little hurt because I think I deserved the award, considering I had better numbers than Howard, but these things happen."

"A player who doesn't help his team make the playoffs isn't the MVP. That's what I think, but, sadly, I don't vote."

“But I won the MVP in 2005 and said I’d trade it for a World Series ring, and that’s what happened this year.”

See this website for an explanation of the poor press Pujols received for his words. Apparently, ESPN forgot to check the AP's translating skills before posting the article.

http://www.riverfronttimes.com/blogs/?p=97
Posted: 10:23 PM   by Anonymous
Sweet Stroke! So clutch! Superb at 1st! Team leader! thats why RYAN HOWARD should win
Posted: 8:02 PM   by Anonymous
Albert Pujols would have been my pick as well - until the playoffs rolled around, and he decided to audition for the "Barry Bonds Memorial Baseball Jackass of the Year". The comments about Glavine in the NLCS and Howard on the MVP award do not at all represent "Sportsman"-like behavior. This isn't the "Who had the best stats" award - it's the "Sportsman of the Year" Albert Pujols does not qualify.
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